Sean Strickland, 4 other stand-out fighters of 2023

MMA had no shortage of incredible fighters in 2023.

Sep 9, 2023; Sydney, NSW, AUSTRALIA; Israel Adesanya (red gloves) fights Sean Strickland (blue
Sep 9, 2023; Sydney, NSW, AUSTRALIA; Israel Adesanya (red gloves) fights Sean Strickland (blue / Jasmin Frank-USA TODAY Sports
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Alexa Grasso shocked the world in 2023

Valentina Shevchenko was one of the most dominant champions in modern era UFC. Having lost to only Amanda Nunes in 2016 and 2017 at bantamweight, Shevchenko ripped off nine straight wins at flyweight. Shevchenko won the title in 2018, after dethroning Joanna Jędrzejczyk, and defended the belt seven times. Only five of Shevchenko's UFC fights were non-title fights and she looked unbeatable at flyweight.

Here comes Alexa Grasso.

Grasso is cut from that traditional Mexican boxing cloth but has developed her MMA skills in a big way. She was in the UFC at an early age and began her career at strawweight. Despite some good wins, losses to Tatiana Suarez and Carla Esparza forced her to move to the flyweight division.

Grasso's fight against Maycee Barber was her hitting her prime. She was considered a fairly big underdog and Barber was such a highly-touted prospect. This fight not only proved Grasso's elite boxing, but she showed true MMA skill against someone who was supposed to dominate her on the ground. Grasso had Barber swinging for air with her solid footwork and countering, and was also able to showcase her wrestling and grappling.

After beating Barber, Grasso beat Joanna Wood and Viviane Araujo before facing Shevchenko for the title. Grasso proved even further that she is in her prime by staying competitive on the feet and keeping Shevchenko missing. Taking advantage of a huge mistake from Shevchenko, Grasso was able to get a takedown, take her back, and lock up a face crank.

Grasso's performance was nothing short of spectacular. Shevchenko was truly one of the last dominant champions from the previous generation of fighters and Grasso was happy to takeover. Credit was hard to come by, given Shevchenko's dominance and uncharacteristic mistake. Grasso and Shevchenko danced again with the judges scoring it a split draw. Shevchenko continues to be vocal about the decision, believing she won the fight.

Given Shevchenko's age, one more opportunity to regain her title from Grasso should be in the cards for 2024. If it happens, MMA fans will be happy to oblige.